I’m reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I’ve been wading through a lot of heavy theology and philosophy over the past year, so I decided to take a break and read a novel just for the pleasure of it. On Peri’s recommendation I chose East of Eden. But as it turns out East of Eden is a modern reworking of Genesis with plenty of theological and philosophical thinking. The antagonist in the story has to be one of the most evil characters in literary history — the monstrous and whorish Cathy Ames (Kate Trask).

Steinbeck introduces Cathy (Kate) with these words:

I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents.

Later Steinbeck says,

When I said Cathy was a monster it seems to me that it was so.

Cathy murders her parents, manipulates a school teacher’s suicide, sleeps with her husband’s brother on her wedding night, shoots her husband, abandons her twins, poisons a friend and generally leaves a trail of human wreckage in her wake.

Steinbeck goes to great lengths to portray Cathy as not really human, but a monster. He tells us she is a monster no less than five times.

And Cathy is a monster. You can’t tell the Genesis story without a serpent in the garden and Cathy represents the devil in East of Eden.

There is an important scene where Cathy (Kate), now running a whorehouse, meets her husband, Adam Trask, whom she had betrayed, shot and abandoned. I will quote part of their conversation:

Adam stood up and took his hat from the table. “I guess that’s all,” he said. “Good-by.” He walked toward the door.

She called after him, “You’re changed, Mr. Mouse. Have you got a woman at last?”

Adam stopped and slowly turned and his eyes were thoughtful. “I hadn’t considered before,” he said, and he moved toward her until he towered over her and she had to tilt back her head to look into his face. “I said I didn’t understand about you,” he said slowly. “Just now it came to me what you don’t understand.”

“What don’t I understand, Mr. Mouse?”

“You know about the ugliness in people. You showed me the pictures. You use all the sad, weak parts of a man, and God knows he has them.”


Adam went on, astonished at his own thoughts, “But you — yes, that’s right — you don’t know about the rest. You don’t believe I brought you the letter because I don’t want your money. You don’t believe that I loved you. And the men who come to you here with their ugliness, the men in the pictures — you don’t believe those men could have goodness and beauty in them. You see only one side, and you think — more than that, you’re sure — that’s all there is.”

She cackled at him derisively. “In sticks and stones. What a sweet dreamer is Mr. Mouse! Give me a sermon, Mr. Mouse.”

“No. I won’t because I seem to know that there’s a part of you missing. Some men can’t see the color green, but they may never know they can’t. I think you are only a part of a human. I can’t do anything about that. But I wonder whether you ever feel that something invisible is all around you. It would be horrible if you knew it was there and couldn’t see it or feel it. That would be horrible.”

Kate pushed back her chair and stood up. Her fists were clenched at her sides and hiding in the folds of her skirt. She tried to prevent the shrillness that crept into her voice.

“Our Mouse is a philosopher,” she said. “But our Mouse is no better at that than he is at other things. Did you ever hear of hallucinations? If there are things I can’t see, don’t you think it’s possible that they are dreams manufactured in your own sick mind?”

“No, I don’t,” said Adam. “No, I don’t. And I don’t think you do either.” He turned and went out and closed the door behind him.

Kate sat down and stared at the closed door. She was not aware that her fists beat softly on the white oilcloth but she did know that the square white door was distorted by tears and that her body shook with something that felt like rage and also felt like sorrow.

That’s brilliant.

A brilliant picture of the devil.

The devil is filled with loathing and contempt for humanity because all he can see is the weakness and ugliness of humanity. He doesn’t believe that humanity is capable of goodness and beauty…he can’t see it. Marred though it may be, the image of God is still there, but the devil can’t see it. He is blind to all goodness. This is why Satan is a complete cynic. He can only believe the worst about people. This is why cynicism is so Satanic. You can hear the hiss of the serpent in the very word. Sssyn-isss-isssm. This is why the devil is the accuser of the saints — he can only see their sin.

What is the devil?
A monster?
Yes. Maybe the only real monster.

A fallen angel.


Fallen from his former estate.
Fallen from heaven.
Fallen from beauty.
Fallen from goodness.
Fallen from from the angelic into the demonic.
Fallen from the the seraphic into the monstrous.

And in his fall the devil has laid hold of humanity to pull us down with him.
And when we fall with the devil we fall out of humanity into subhumanity.


It seems that it’s possible to fall out of humanity.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has something to say about this. Speaking of what one can learn from suffering by what he learned during his years as a political prisoner in the Soviet gulags, Solzhenitsyn says this:

You are ascending…
Formerly you never forgave anyone. You judged people without mercy. Now an understanding mildness has become the basis of your uncategorical judgments. You have come to realize your own weakness — and you can therefore understand the weakness of others.

The stones rustle beneath our feet. We are ascending…
Your soul, which formerly was dry, now ripens from suffering.

And what would one then have to say about our so evident torturers? Why does not fate punish them? Why do they prosper? And the only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but…in the development of the soul. From that point of view our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: they are turning into swine, they are departing downward from humanity.

From The Gulag Archipelago, Part IV The Soul and Barbed Wire, “The Ascent”

So the great dragon was thrown down
That ancient serpent called the Devil or Satan
The one deceiving the whole world
He was thrown down to the earth
And his angels with him.

(Revelation 12:9)

The fallen angel.
The dragon serpent.
Called the Devil and Satan.
Devil means gossip.
Satan means slanderer.
The serpent is a cynic.
The fallen angel is the accuser of the saints.

When we gossip and slander, when we’re accusatory and cynical…
We are fallen.


Christ has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a word of elevation.
Slander is a word that is subhuman.

Don’t be subhuman with a fallen angel.
Rise with Christ and help reconcile humanity.



These are seeds of a thought I hope to give full flower to on Friday night.